A home network is a small local area network that enables communication among two or more computing devices within a limited area of a home. This type of computer network can be used to share files and software between two computers or computer-related devices, such as printers, scanners, smartphones, or digital cameras. Besides, a home network can be established to facilitate the sharing of Internet access among multiple computers and mobile devices in a home and manage the security settings of all devices.
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Home networks may be either wired (if connections are made with cables) or wireless (if connections are set using Wi-Fi). Due to its relatively easy installation and convenience, a wireless connection is a more preferred option. However, it is worth mentioning that wired networks are usually faster and more reliable than wireless ones.
Typical elements of a home network are a modem, a router, a network switch, and a network bridge. A modem is a hardware device that creates and maintains a dedicated connection to one’s Internet service provider. Since a computer and the Internet have different types of signals, a modem demodulates the analog signals coming from the Internet and transforms them into digital ones so that a computer can understand them. Apart from that, this device also demodulates digital signals coming from a computer into their analog equivalents, which go to the Internet. Features that the majority of cable modems share are high-speed access to the Internet, reliability, Network Address Translation, and a DHCP server.
A router passes the Internet connection to all the devices in a home so they can have access to the Internet and share the home’s signal WAN address. This device may function as a wireless access point so that wireless devices can connect to the Internet (White, 2016). One does not need a router if they want to connect only one device to the Internet. Basic features of a router include a built-in switch with multiple LAN ports and an integrated wireless access point. One may note that some routers have a built-in modem.
A network switch is a central communication device in a home network. It can be connected to a router in order to gain more Ethernet ports. Thus, a switch is used when a router does not have enough ports to connect all the computer-related devices within a network or when a device requires a non-standard port. Common features of a network switch are the possibility to change configuration (managed and unmanaged switches), pluggable modules, and the option to control who has access to the network.
A network bridge is used for interconnecting two or more local area networks that have the same protocol. Operating at the data link layer of the OSI model, this device can divide a network into segments, thus reducing the number of collisions in it (White, 2016). Among the most important features of a network bridge are network expansion, reliability, and frame buffer. Network expansion means the possibility to increase the number of network segments. By dividing the local area network into smaller units, a bridge makes the network more reliable and secure. This device enables a user to interconnect different segments that operate under different MAC protocols. The forwarding of frames between units of the network is controlled in order to prevent errors.
White, C. M. (2016). Data communications and computer networks: A business user’s approach (8th ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning.